“… Gunter, do you hear something?”
“What is it this time? I’m not as young as My Lord is, my ears and eyes aren’t as good as yours…”
He is still in his late twenties, yet he said something astonishing. Still, he was focused on listening for the sounds, so I didn’t say anything about this.
“… Is that the sound of horse hooves?”
“Can you tell what direction it’s coming from?”
“How would I know? Do you think I’m a beast or something, you stupid brat?”
Gunter resentfully spat out, and I decided to ignore his remark in this place. No one else can hear him anyway.
“Claudia would have been able to tell.”
“Don’t lump me together with that little girl.”
Well, okay, I nodded and listened out for the sounds again. The vibrations echoed at the back of my ears, and now that he has mentioned it, they do sound like running horses. And, there was no way to tell which direction they were coming from.
Then, Paul came running back after I had just sent him off as a messenger to the centre formation. Although he’s a squire, he was trained properly as a soldier, and he wasn’t even short of breath.
“You really are fast.”
“Thank you for the compliment. Hmm, Ergnard-sama said that he wants you to come to the centre formation, My Lord.”
I frowned when I heard Paolo’s message from Ergnard. He wants me to leave my army?
“… Alright, I’ll go.”
Nevertheless, I must go if he wants me to come to him. Ergnard’s social status and his position in Jugfena Fortress is higher than mine. And, the fastest method is for me to go there since I am the only one on horseback.
“Gunter, I’ll leave the command to you for the time being. Paolo, get on the back. I’ll take you with me to act as a messenger.”
“Whawhat, me ride on My Lord’s horse?”
Paolo is a squire who was trained to become a cavalry soldier in the future. Otherwise, I would never allow him to lead the reins on my horse. He still seemed lost so I glared at him. He panicked, then finally jumped on behind me smoothly.
There seemed to be a state of confusion in the centre formation, and the soldiers all seemed awfully nervous. The aura was even heavier than when we were standing in front of the walls, before departure.
“Ergnard-sama, I heard that you have summoned me?”
“Ah, Viscountess Kaldia. I’m glad that you came over immediately.”
When our horses were next to each other, he said, “Pardon me,” before picking me up and putting me on his horse.
What is he suddenly doing? I was bewildered, but I heard him speak in a tiny voice from above my head, and realised that he was doing this so that the information wouldn’t leak. Paolo suddenly had to control my horse by himself and had his hands full. His situation was just the same as mine, before my birthday situation. The horse wouldn’t calm down and kept shaking its head.
“Sorry about that.”
“It’s fine. So, what did you want to talk about?”
“The right wing will change directions and proceed southwest. I heard the sounds of horse hooves earlier. There’s a large team of horses nearby. When I received your report, I wondered if the Densel army had an even bolder plan.”
We had headed directly east from Jugfena Fortress to get here, so deploying our right wing to the southwest would mean that he’s worried that the enemy army would slip pass us from the south and invade our kingdom. The elevation gets lower the further south we go. It was quite slopped and stair-like in some places, so it may be quite hard to find the Densel army if they did take a southern route. If the Densel army is really advancing from the west, then they would definitely take the low southern routes.
There were moats and fences further south of Jufgena Fortress for defence, but it wouldn’t be impossible to overcome those things if they really wanted to invade. The soldiers, who are usually on lookout, are participating in today’s expedition, and there are guards at the fortress. However, beyond the line of defence is the Monster Forest, home to all sorts of magical beasts. There is a reason why there is less security compared to other places; tens of thousands of troops would be needed to pass through the Monster Forest and invade the land.
“I can’t get a good read on the enemy’s intentions. I think the Densel army must have realised that we have left Jufgena Fortress… But, as for them setting camp, and making decoys out of papier mache…”
“It definitely feels like they’re setting a trap.”
Or rather, you can’t think of it as being anything but a trap. I answered while glaring at the shadows that can clearly be seen from where their camp was, and Ergnard agreed with me, “Yeah.”
“… I’ll command the knights to inspect their camp. The others will wait here.”
“Isn’t it dangerous to stop here while we still don’t know the enemy’s intentions?”
“That’s true, but we can get a good view of the Great Plains here. It should be safer here than heading towards the enemy camp. We have a lot of agile cavalry troops. When you return to your fief army, can you relay this message to the Palakis captain, the left wing soldier should proceed as planned, and protect the Sill Tribe while intercepting their pursuers?”
When I heard him mention the Palakis squad, bitter feelings towards the vice-captain surged within me as I recalled my recent encounter with him. There’s no point in passing along any messages to someone that won’t listen to you… Him ignoring my orders in this situation will be taken as a serious offence when we go back to the fortress. He will also be charged with disrespect towards a noble; I wonder if that white-bearded vice-captain will be able to remain in Jugfena Fortress after that.
I swallowed down my feelings and doubts, and nodded. Then, my body was picked up again.
“If we both get through this battle safely, then let’s talk a little bit. It’ll be good for you to hear what I have to say.”
“Small,” a knight whispered.
Talk? What does he want to talk to me about? I pondered while nodding.
“Good girl. Take care of yourself.”
He whispered with a lot of affection before dropping me off back onto my horse. And so, I was sitting in front of Paolo, who had been struggling to control my horse, once again. I quickly took the reins of my horse, and it neighed and reared slightly. I controlled my horse and turned it to the left while stealing a glance at Ergnard’s direction. He was already nowhere to be seen.
I ran my horse to the Palakis squad’s vanguard. The centre formation troops had already stopped moving as I made my way through, and the soldiers at the back of the leading right wing looked puzzled when they saw the centre had stopped.
“Is the Palakis squad captain here?”
Their vice-captain had just come over to the Kaldia army earlier, so I figured that their captain would most likely be leading their vanguard, but the person who was leading them was the white-bearded vice-captain. He smiled at me and asked, “What’s the matter?”
“Ergnard-sama has ordered the troops to stop marching. The army will be on standby. And, where’s your captain?”
“If you’re looking for the captain, then he just headed over to the Kaldia army.”
I was bewildered by what I had heard, and couldn’t help but ask him to repeat himself. What does the Palakis squad captain want with my army? I saw a glimmer of malice in the vice-captain’s smile.
“Our captain saw Viscountess Kaldia heading off somewhere earlier. He believed that there would be no one in charge, so he headed over there to act as commander in your place. After all, it’s quite well-known that the Kaldia army is a disorganised army that doesn’t even have military ranks.”
It was obvious from his vile words that he was happy to hurt the feelings of a child. I didn’t want to deal with such ugliness anymore.
“I think our army is much better than an army under an incompetent leader who can’t even accurately assess what they can and cannot say.”
Paolo, who was sitting behind me, butted in blankly. I nearly burst into laughter from his comment, but I held it in. The white-bearded vice-captain’s detestable smile disappeared for a second.
“Right now, I’m extremely grateful that there isn’t someone who underestimates someone for being a child, finds it amusing to make fun of nobility, is stupid, and has bad taste in the Kaldia army.”
I told him myself, and Paolo laughed cynically without holding back. He might have been hyped up since this is his first campaign. I didn’t feel like accompanying the vice-captain whose face had turned red for any longer, and turned my horse around to leave. My horse which had started galloping easily passed the vice-captain. I didn’t see that the vice-captain, who had been quite slow to react, had slightly raised his hand. Even thinking about what he wanted to do with that hand was annoying.
Now then, I wonder how my army is. Over there is the captain who had appointed that kind of man as the vice-captain. I have a rough idea about what kind of person the captain is.
“I’m really sorry, I wilfully interrupted your conversation, My Lord.”
When we left the Palakis squad, Paolo apologised for his rudeness. He wasn’t weirdly hyped like he had been when he had spoken ironically and laughed.
“It’s fine. I also thought that filthy words were coming out of his mouth.”
There was a second of silence before Paolo chuckled and said.
“So that’s what My Lord was thinking. You seem a lot more mature than I am.”
When I returned to the front of my army, Gunter was being strangely skilful as he marched the army onwards while yelling angrily at someone.
“Like I said, I won’t follow your selfish decisions. Viscountess Kaldia personally told me to take command here!”
“What’s the fuss about, Gunter?”
I covered my ears to shield them from Gunter’s angry shouts, and asked.
“… Oh, aah, My Lord. You’ve returned at the perfect time. Could you get rid of this guy?”